WALTHAM — As the Celtics attempt to push away from the Rajon Rondo effect and sail more toward ball movement and shared responsibility, some of those players who perhaps suffered as a result of Rondo’s ball domination are expressing renewed optimism about increased opportunities in the offense.
Jason Terry and Brandon Bass pointed out that the new rapid ball movement the Celtics will employ now that Rondo, the league’s assist leader, is out for the season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, is likely more conducive to their games.
Both players struggled offensively during the first half of the season, and the question is whether Rondo’s dribble-heavy style robbed them of chances to receive the ball in favorable spots.
Bass scored 12 points against the Kings Wednesday on 4-for-7 shooting, his first double-digit scoring game in 12 days. Terry also had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including two 3-pointers. And while Terry missed 8 of 12 shots in Sunday’s win over Miami, the 12 attempts were his most since Dec. 30.
Coach Doc Rivers said the Celtics will use a four-guard system to handle the ball, and he stressed ball movement and crisp passing against the Kings. Bass and Terry were the recipients of those passes and had more open shots.
“Now that I think everybody’s moving the ball, everybody gets an opportunity to be in a rhythm,” Bass said. “It’s about the same, we’re not running any different sets. Instead of one person getting 14, 15 assists, everybody gets two or three.
“I just think everybody has to step up and be more aggressive, being that we are without Rondo.”
It’s been a difficult season for Bass, who signed a three-year, $20 million contract extension in the offseason. He is averaging 5 fewer points and 1.4 fewer rebounds per game than last season, and his shooting percentage has dipped from 47.9 to 44.4.
“It’s frustrating," he said. “Hopefully I continue to get more [opportunities]. I just think, man, everybody’s moving the ball and everybody’s going to get more looks or everybody is going to get an opportunity to make a play for somebody else.”
While the team laments Rondo’s absence, said Bass, he doesn’t deny that some players are looking forward to more touches.
“Of course you feel better by the ball touching your hands,” he said. “It feels good. But at the same time we still miss Rondo.”
Rivers said Bass just hit more shots.
“I don’t think we need to give it much thought,” he said. “He hit the same shots he was missing three games ago.
“I think what Brandon is doing now is he’s not thinking about missing shots or that he’s not playing or that he’s not getting the same touches or whatever that stupid crap is. He just made shots. He’s also had some pretty good games with Rondo.”
Terry said the scoring load is going to have to be shared more, and indeed six players were in double figures against the Kings.
“I believe that’s going to be a formula of success for us,” he said. “Some nights, somebody might go for a big number, but for a majority of the time, we’re going to have to spread it out, do it by committee, and two or three guys have four or five assists.
“That’s how we have to win.”
The veteran guard maintained that his role won’t change, although his shots are expected to increase.
“It’s been an adjustment for me, playing in this system, but I’m getting more and more comfortable,” he said. “And, again, with this style that we’re playing, I think it’s a little more conducive to my game.”
. . .
Jared Sullinger did not practice Thursday because of back spasms, and Rivers said he is 50-50 to play Friday against the Orlando Magic. Sullinger apparently slipped in the draft because of back issues but has played in the team’s first 45 games. He left Wednesday’s win with 7:52 left in the first quarter and did not return.
Rivers said Sullinger began experiencing back discomfort two weeks ago, but the coach doesn’t expect it will be a major injury.
“There’s nothing, I don’t think, that is bad, just spasms,” Rivers said. “When you have a back, you have a back, it’s not one thing, it’s everything.
“I’m not that concerned. Can his miss games here or there? He may, but it’s not anything [long-term] or anything like that.
“My guess is he plays with it every day. I keep saying, because I had a back injury my whole career, once you have a back, you have a back. It never goes away. You just have to play through it.”Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe